Student Starts Business With the Help of West Campus Professor

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Opening a business and managing successfully are quite the challenge, but for some with entrepreneurial blood coursing through their veins, those challenges can be overcome with a little help from their friends.

This certainly became true of Alicia Barazarte, a Valencia College alumna who, in 2017, opened a food restaurant — Wonderland’s Food — with her husband and sister as she pursued her Associate in Science in business administration. The 60-credit program can be completed online and transfers into Valencia’s Bachelor of Applied Science in business and organizational leadership.

“My husband Arturo; he cooks amazing Venezuelan food,” said Alicia, who was born in Venezuela and graduated from Valencia last year. “I used to go to places to eat and I couldn’t find that Venezuelan flavor.”

But it took more than just a desire to serve delicious home-style meals consisting of parrilla (grilled meats), pabellón (a popular dish made with shredded beef, black beans, salty cheese and fried plantains), the iconic arepa (a corn dough patty served with numerous fillings) and more that propelled Alicia.

She credits Valencia’s business program as well as her own background (both her mom and dad ran businesses) with helping her find her footing in the business world.

“We had no idea at all what it takes to [run a restaurant],” said Alicia. “How to calculate profits; the price to be charged; how to deal with employees. The program helped a lot … I was able to apply all the concepts to the business, and the results were notable. Valencia gave me all the tools to have a successful business.”

By way of example, she discussed how an important lesson learned in class, namely, that simplicity often translates into profits, helped her reduce her costs.

“We went from plating to offering more takeout,” she said. “We also reduced the number of items on the menu by 40%, and the customers barely even noticed. We were able to save a lot of money that way.”

In three years, Wonderland’s Food has grown: Alicia added both staff and equipment to the restaurant, surviving the onslaught of COVID-19 while many others businesses floundered.

One of her instructors, Matthew Kenney, professor, business, said class discussions on family businesses seemed to have resonated with Alicia.

“We sort of throw out the textbook and candidly discuss the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Matthew. “Family business is not a subject which can be fully understood theoretically or conceptually. It’s like parenthood: You have to experience it to understand it. Alicia’s family business is poised for growth, and I think our Small Business Management class may have been beneficial in providing tools to balance family and business.”

Besides explaining the ins and outs of business planning, Matthew said he provided a lot of moral support.

“There is a lot of emphasis in business school on management, marketing and accounting … but often student entrepreneurs just need a little reassurance,” he said.

Alicia, said that although it is possible to start and run a business without a college degree, her education has helped her make fewer mistakes while also allowing her to rely on helping hands, including those of “Professor Kenney,” whom she still calls for business advice on occasion.

“You have the tools and the knowledge to hit the ground running,” said Alicia. “I highly recommend a college education.”

2 Comments

  • Anonymous said:

    This writing is truly embarrassing.

    PMTue, 18 Aug 2020 22:18:55 +0000Tue, 18 Aug 2020 22:18:55 +0000pm20,10:18 pm

  • Martin Barazarte said:

    I am proud of my daughter

    PMWed, 19 Aug 2020 21:36:18 +0000Wed, 19 Aug 2020 21:36:18 +0000pm20,9:36 pm

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